The Royal Prince Alfred Yacht club hosted the fourth Melges 24 Australian Championships over the past four days. Sponsored by Gill Australia and daily prizes from North Sails the event attracted a quality field of some of Australia’s top sailors to battle it out for the honor of becoming 2011 Melges 24 Australian Champion.
Day one the course was set offshore between Palm Beach and Whale Beach headland. Conditions were light 3-5 knots of Northerly Breeze in sloppy seas. Rob Curtis Matilda went out to sea the first beat and benefited in the tricky conditions but was unable to maintain his lead. Positions changed between marks and Warwick Rooklyn Bandit finished first laying the foundations for his regatta, Kym Nisbet in WA boat Kaito second and Cameron Miles Roger That third. The Committee was only able to get one race off before the breeze faded and the course was shortened, sending the fleet back to the club.
Friday and day two racing was again offshore, little wind was predicted. Boats were waiting for the breeze to start filling in and spotted some sharks, swell was small. The committee managed to get four races away when a good 8-10 knot straight South East breeze came in after lunch. Conditions favored good boat speed and technique in the swell. Cameron Miles Roger that stepped up with two firsts and two fourths. Rooklyn Bandit and Nisbet Kaito both went home with a first, second, third, as well as their drops for the regatta, the top three boats started to secure their overall standings. Kevin Nixon Accru and crew that consists of wife Glenda, 20 year old son Daniel and 22 year old daughter Bonnie are 50 kg underweight and enjoyed making gains on the runs to achieve their best result of the series coming second in race two. Kevin said 'we are able to run deep downwind; my family has an exceptionally good technique'.
Saturday and four races were scheduled inshore in a shifty North Easterly breeze which leveled the field for those
boats who had not performed as well in the swell. Tactics came to the forefront and Rooklyn proved that his crew work and local knowledge with Julian Plante onboard was going to be hard to beat dominating the day with a first, second, first. Roger That had their drop of the series after a second and first. New boat owner South Australian Gary Shanks Outrage-Us demonstrated what we can expect in future events after more time in the boat finishing second to Bandit in race eight. Geoff Fogarty and crew on Amigo’s had some good clean starts but along with Arriba Arriba were unable to sustain their advantage in such a competitive fleet. Fogarty commented 'going into the regatta we really had nothing to lose and have learnt a lot'.
By the end of day three Bandit was leading the regatta on 11 points, Roger That second on 16 points, Kaito third on 21 points.
Back at the RPAYC, the Melges 24’s held their AGM where Warwick Rooklyn was re elected as the Australian Class President, Dug Russell reelected Vice President, Ian Greentree Treasurer, Jason McHattan Secretary and Andrew Kendall Promotions. Geoff Fogarty and Kevin Nixon the Melges 24 AUS 2014 Worlds representatives.
The Regatta was up for the taking going into the final day with Roger That aggressively pursuing the title. The 10-15 knot north easterly breeze came in steadily with a rolling offshore swell. The fleet competed on an amazing day behind the surf at Palm Beach.
Rob Curtis Matilda seemed to enjoy the stronger wind and swell coming away with two seconds to finish the regatta and placing fourth overall.
The other South Australian boat Dave Alexander Wombat Express chartered for the Nationals finished the last two races with a second and a first respectively proving they too will be a future force to be reckoned with. Back at the bar Dave commented 'we are really pleased, we improved throughout the regatta achieving our best result on the last day, remember your only as good as your last race' crew member Dan O’Connell enjoyed the close racing and said 'we would cross the finishing line wondering if we got a third or a seventh'.
It was a great day of super close competitive sailing finishing back at the club in the protest room where Rooklyn
Bandit was blown out of race twelve and Nixon Accru retired from race twelve.
Final scores meant the Class President Warwick Rooklyn and his crew; Julian Plante, Doug McGain, Dave O’Connor, Jay Griffin won the 2011 Australian Title on a count back over Cameron Mile Roger That, both on 24 points.
In his speech Warwick commented that it was great racing and exciting to see such a high level of competition. Later Warwick stated that he has been in the class eight months now and it’s good to be at the pointy end starting his Corpus Christi Worlds Campaign. Warwick commented 'the format of racing was really good for us, we enjoyed more days offshore, and it gave us more experience in the lump.'
Cameron Miles and his crew Roger That finished on equal points in second place after an outstanding regatta. They will be up for the win that eluded them this time at the 2012 Nationals in SA.
Finishing fourteen points behind and in third place were the WA crew Kym Nisbet on Kaito. Kaito was a consistent performer throughout the regatta and benefited from the expertise and local knowledge of Michael Coxon onboard from North Sails.
North Sails kindly provided daily prizes of their tactics book to most the improved, results at the next regatta could be very different.
Thank you Gill Australia for supporting the event and providing gear to place getters. Thank you also to the Race Committee at the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club for running a smooth successful regatta.
Congratulations to Warwick and his crew on Bandit heading to the Worlds in Texas as the Australian Champion.